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Statin Side Effects – We Told You So!

Statins, Statin pills and a warning sign,

Over a decade ago we started hearing from readers that statins interfered with their ability to exercise. One elite athlete paid very careful attention to his ergometer reading. He used a sophisticated rowing machine that tracked his performance. It deteriorated noticeably after starting a statin to lower his cholesterol.

A husband wrote that his wife’s previously consistent driving distance in golf dropped after she started taking a statin. She was upset that she had lost 10 yards off most of her drives.

When we searched the medical literature at that time, there were no studies demonstrating that statins like atorvastatin, lovastatin and simvastatin interfered with muscle function or exercise capability. When we asked the FDA about such side effects, we were assured that no such problem existed, based on data from randomized controlled clinical trials. Doctors criticized us for worrying people unnecessarily. As people aged, we were told, they would lose muscle strength. It couldn’t possibly be related to statin treatment.

Last year, though, French scientists reported that rats given atorvastatin had less endurance than unmedicated rats. And now, a sophisticated study has proven that statins do indeed have a deleterious effect on muscles (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, online, April 10, 2013). Researchers at Duke University, Division of Cardiology, recruited sedentary, overweight people for a fascinating study. They were randomized to 12 weeks of aerobic exercise training or the same exercise plus 40 mg of simvastatin (Zocor) daily.

The people who exercised had a 10% improvement in their cardio-respiratory fitness. Those in the statin group only improved their fitness by 1.5%. Worse, those in the exercise group increased their muscle energy-burning efficiency by 13% whereas the people taking statins had a decrease in the energy factories (mitochondria) of their muscles cells. In other words, statins prevented the benefits of exercise.

This has come as a huge shock to the medical community. It will not surprise readers of The People’s Pharmacy. We told you so more than 10 years go. Here is a story that was included in our book, Best Choices from The People’s Pharmacy:

“My mother’s doctors discovered that at age 74 her cholesterol had started to rise. They decided to put her on Lipitor. Since that time her life has changed in many ways.  Before Lipitor she played golf on average two times a week.  She has not played now in a year. She worked in her yard every day, now only once in a great while.  She was walking two to three miles on the days she did not play golf.  This she is still doing, only it is one mile. She would go to dinner with us almost every Friday night.  She still does this only when we make her.

 “Mother is 4 foot 11 inches tall and normally weighs 110 lbs.  She has always been happy even though all her friends were passing away. Last week, she told me she wished she could die because of the pain she is in.  She wakes up in the middle of the night in so much pain that she can not go back to sleep.  Her arthritis has flared up and that is what the doctor has told her is causing her pain. She has also developed diabetes. She is now taking so many drugs that I am not sure what all is wrong with her.”

STATINS AND DIABETES

More than a decade ago readers of The People’s Pharmacy also alerted us to blood sugar problems linked to statins. Again, the FDA ignored our concerns and prescribers denied that there could be any link between statin-type drugs and diabetes. But the evidence continues to build that there is an association between statins and blood sugar control.

A new study in the journal BMJ (online, May 24, 2013) reveals that atorvastatin, rosuvastatin and simvastatin all raise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Researchers reviewed nearly 1.5 million medical records. The individuals were at least 66 years old and had started taking a statin between 1997 and 2010. Although the absolute risk of developing diabetes was low, atorvastin increased it by 22%, rosuvastatin raised it by 18% and simvastatin boosted it by 10%. Pravastatin and fluvastatin actually lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes.

THE BOTTOM LINE ON STATIN SIDE EFFECTS:

It can take decades for researchers or the FDA to discover serious drug-induced side effects. Statins are supposed to prevent heart attacks and strokes. But if such drugs interfere with people’s ability to exercise or control their blood sugar, doctors may need to temper their enthusiasm for these cholesterol-lowering medications so they will be prescribed only for patients who will benefit most.

Share your own statin story below in the comment section. You may also want to read our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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Im 52 and was put on atorvastatin 10mg a day and after a year and a half was upped to 20mg a day about 3 mos after taking the increased dose my lower buttocks and hamstrings started to hurt. i thought nothing of it since i had started a new job in a mall (im an optician) and had started walking the mall on my lunch hour thinking it was just normal aches from walking.

After about 3 weeks, I decided to call my doctor and when I told him my symptoms he said to stop the statin for 2 weeks that he thought it was causing the pain after 2 weeks nothing had changed so he wanted to put me on a steroid for 2 weeks but i wouldn’t take them because he said it could cause heart palipitations and skipped beats and i have A Fib so no way. Then he said he didn’t think it was the statins and wanted to put me on fibromyalgia meds and he would not do blood work so needless to say I found another doctor by the time I got to see him the pain had migrated to my groin area and wrapped around the tops of my legs and both hips both shoulders and arms down to my elbows the pain is excruciating upon waking or sitting for long periods I walk like im eighty and can hardly get in and out of a car and im on leave from work.

The new doctor is sending me to a rheumatologist I might have some arthritis but it doesnt just start one day and 2 months later feel like this . i have no swelling or redness or is my skin red or hot I don’t care what anyone says its the statins. I just need to know how long i have to suffer- its ruining my life- i read on another site it took someone 6+ mos. to recover i just hope it isnt permanent. Sorry so long …..

I was on Crestor 5mg. By the end of month I was weak, had heart palpitations, pain on my right thigh, pain on both me eyes, anxious and depressed. Stopped the Crestor and after my 3rd week, I am slowly regaining my strength

I am 84 years of age. I got a high cholesterol reading and my doctor put me on 40 mg of Lipitor. For the first eleven days I took it, I experienced no apparent side effects. On the 12th day, I suddenly became very nauseated. I assumed I had a stomach virus. In a couple of hours I began to vomit severely, vomiting something black. I still remained ill and, about 24 hours later, I bagan vomiting the black substance again.
I headed for the emergency room and vomited again upon arriving there. A sample of the vomit was tested and it tested positive for blood. The diagnosis was that I had an ulcerated esophogus, caused by taking an aspirin per day over a ten-year period. The Dr. prescribed an acid inhibitor, I was given an intravenous injection of pain medication, and was sent home. I noticed while at the emergency room that I had trouble urinating. When I got home, my son and daughter were barely able to get me from the car into the house, my legs were so weak. As I went through the door, I fell and hit my head on a table. The only way I could get through the house was with a walker.
A couple of times over the next three days, I began sweating profusely and almost fainted. I had trouble urinating and had no appetite. Finally, I decided to start eliminating one medicine at a time. I stayed off my pain medicine for 24 hours but nothing changed. I stayed off Lipitor for 24 hours and suddenly everything was back to normal. I immediately stopped taking Lipitor and have made a gradual recovery to the point that after two weeks I am now back to where I was physically before taking Lipitor.

Big Pharma is out to destroy your body so bad that you will be on medications the rest of your life. Been 3 years since I threw statins in garbage can and believe me this damage does not always heal. My legs are still weak and I believe I will have to finish my life like this. I WILL BE ON THE OTHER SIDE WAITING ON THESE FIENDS.

There is constant pain in the muscle in my head. Most days it’s a dull ache, but sometimes it flares up and I need to take Advil, etc. to ease the pain. As I said in my earlier post, this muscle is permanently damaged. I also have fibromyalgia so I always have muscle pain. But it looks like statins are not good for people with fibromyalgia. I took statins at night.
The night I decided to stop, I went to bed and felt very strange. I experienced waves of sensations going through my body, up and down. I have never experienced anything like that. I finally fell asleep. I woke up early in the morning and every muscle in my body was in screaming pain! I could barely move.
I start massaging every muscle I could reach until I was able to get out of bed. Then took a hot shower. I have a hand held shower and concentrated the hot water on various sections of my body until I felt the muscles relax. I also had to take some pain medication. After an experience like that, I will never, ever get back on a statin.

How are your muscles today ? I have been on 3 different statins I have never been so poorly since taking statins on and off for 2 years, my left arm is the worst I can’t do certain things with it but my joints have started hurting more elbows, wrists, knees, hips and ankles. I will probably be told its arthritis, my thighs have changed shape it looks like my muscle drops when I lift my leg.
I have started taking b12, b6, vitamin d with calcium and ubiquinol but things don’t seem any better. All I know is if I stop taking b12 for one day things get a lot worse. My vitamin d is 17 I have been told I need it above 25 and my b12 is normal so they say it’s 276. can anyone advise me on any of my problems? thank you

I am 50 year old male. I had a “mild” non st elevated heart attack a year ago. I had two stents fitted and straight away started on 80mg statin as well as ace inhibitor etc. I could not tolerate the 80mg statin down to constipation, really bad, onst within 24 hours It would come and go in tune with the statin or no statin, and 100% statin induced.
They reduced the statin dose down to 20mg and I have persevered and carried on with my life for a year. Yes I get cramps, muscle pains etc, but not bad. Lately though, I have started suffering really bad fatigue, I can sleep 12 hours and still not feel rested. I am 5ft 9, 12 stone (168lbs), eat v healthy diet, cycle, walk. The tiredness is not due to excess exercise, it’s more than tiredness, it’s complete whacked out cannot be bothered with anything, day after day.
About a week ago I scrapped the statin, and surprise surprise, I feel tons better. Is it Psychological etc, not in your wildest dreams. I am not some kind of nut, hyperchondriac, whatever, I am a sane married self employed plumber!!..(I must be mad!)…. I have always been a little skeptical of the whole cholesterol is bad argument, and they are forever changing the argument too. If you stay on a statin, good luck, they wore me right down, but it took a year.

Yes, there is an alternative that works for many, many people. Change your diet to a totally plant-based one (no meats, eggs, cheese) and also keep the carbs low glycemic ones (green veggies rather than potatoes/rice, breads, etc.). Basically, eat lots of veggies, especially green ones. For protein, use plant sources. High carb intake will increase the body’s own production of cholesterol, and the actual cholesterol in the animal products (plant ones contain none) will also drive up cholesterol. You can read more about this in the books by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr. Joel Fuhrman. It works — with high reliability and within a relatively short time (few weeks), and no side effects.

How can you people not realize these statin drugs will destroy you as they have me? These doctors are messing with something they have no knowledge about. I will never go to another doctor. What time I have left is mine to enjoy without some fool with m.d. tagged after their name to ever tell me anything again. 6 years ago I could do anything and after they got through with me I was ready to die. guide yourself as you see fit, but research on your own before you pop a pill in your mouth.

Not hardly will that diet work within a few weeks. And, I’d say that cutting out all carbohydrates is not a good idea. Also, you must not be a woman, because I know of no woman who does better not eating some meat.

I had been on several different statins over the years (I’m now 59). All gave me muscle pain in the upper arms and legs. Got to the point I couldn’t lift anything my arms hurt so bad. Crestor was the worst for me. I also noticed a slight pain in my right temple.
Then I had to change doctors because of new health insurance. This doctor put me on two statins because he felt my numbers weren’t low enough. Well, the pain in my head exploded! I thought I was having a stroke. The doctor sent me to specialists to try to find out what happened. An ENT discovered that a muscle in my head that starts from your forehead and wraps around behind your ear to your throat was very inflamed. That’s what was causing the pain.
Took several rounds of predisone and other anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve the pain. But it has not totally gone away and flares up. I believe that muscle has been permanently damaged. I stopped all statins and changed doctors.

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